Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Horror-ible, Part XXXI: Hellboy: The Storm #3 and Lady Demon #2



Halloween Double POST-A-DAY , October 27, 2016



Double-Down on Decent Demons



I love it when a post comes together.

Specifically this one. It was entirely too serendipitous for both the Hellboy and Lady Demon issues to come one right after the other in the reading pile. I could not ignore the portent of getting to compare and contrast these two heroes, one well-known and the other newly arrived.



Both are dark spirits, tempted to give in to their base nature but possessing to varying degrees a core value of goodness. One came by this through a compassionate and loving home environment. The other by way of a mystical bonding to a recently deceased mortal. But however this instilling of conscience was achieved, both struggle with the daily temptations it bring



Hellboy: The Storm #3





We'll begin with Hellboy, who has history both in the comics and in movies. They blend together sometimes running parallel and sometimes diverging. I'll concentrate on his history in the books to the exclusion of his big screen adventures.



Hellboy to me is much like Eric Powell's "The Goon." And by that I mean it is a great book series written by an artist I enjoy immensely BUT I cannot find the time to seek out all of the trades and read them. Like with The Goon, I have a few of the first trades and love them so. However, the Crapbox has its hooks in me and here is where I must stay.



The story of the Hellboy begins with birth as a child named Anung Un Rama ("and upon his brow is set a crown of flame") to a human woman. His mother was killed by the monstrous devil she copulated with (willingly, I might add), leaving Hellboy to his Father's devices. The demon sliced off his hand and replaced it with the Right Hand of Doom. The child is summoned to Earth by Nazis but rescued by American soldiers and an occult professor by the name of Bruttenholm.



Bruttenholm names the child "Hellboy" and adopts him as his own. He teaches Hellboy morality and occult secrets, which come in handy as they fight off supernatural menaces as part of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD).



None of this is new to you if you've seen the first movie.



Mike Mignola is the author of Hellboy and although art chores are not on his plate in this particular limited series (Duncan Fegredo is credited), his fingerprints are all over the artwork. Mignola has a unique style that is always definitely HIM. For examples, take a look at Disney's animated Atlantis movie, which he worked on design graphics for or better yet, watch The Amazing Screw-On Head.



So hats off to Mr. Fegredo for mimicking the much of style of Mignola's wonderfully bold, cutout penciling style.



I have to apologize because the Crapbox yielded a final issue in a three issue arc VERY late in Hellboy's career that also serves as a bridge to the next series. This book is filled with payoffs and little to no explanations of those payoffs. For that very reason it is a poor jumping on point for a new reader or even a reader like me, who is familiar with the character's comic book origins, but no what has happened over the last 40-plus issues.



What I do have at hand is Wikipedia, which is convenient since very little backstory is given on anyone here. We start this issue in an England that is about to be besieged by an army raised by Nimue, one of the two "Ladies of the Lake" from Arthurian legend. She's been a thorn in Hellboy's side for several story arcs now and finally has the power to end all life on Earth.



The past storylines have established that Hellboy is Arthur's heir and he is carrying the sword Excalibur, a relic of great power. If he draws the sword, the undead armies of England, who have been leaving their graves, shall rise up and fight at his command. Who are they? These guys surrounding the pub that Hellboy and his current romantic interest Alice Monaghan are resting in.

 

There appears to be a discussion regarding using this power, however.


 

This is one of the continuing themes of Hellboy and actually the Lady Demon book that follows. Both deal with the power of temptation to give in to evil in an attempt to do good. Thus the reason for their inclusion together.



In Hellboy's case, he continually rejects power fearing that it will lead to the downfall of the very humanity he is attempting to save. In this case it looks as if he is doomed either way. He's even had "allies" trying to convince him to take up the sword, but he's having none of it. 

 

The prophecy to avoid for Hellboy is one where he uses the army to open the gates of Hell, pitting demon against the ancient evil Nimue has at her command. This however puts humans right in the middle, and we all know how that would turn out.



Hellboy's reasoning here is pretty sound then. And even more sound when he tells Alice this.




He's removing the temptation to use the easy out and perhaps doom himself and all of the human race. Around the second reading of this that I really noticed the difference between Fegredo's and Mignola's art. Mignola is a bit more sparse and open, where Fegredo uses more detail. It is still stunning, don't get me wrong.



Alice is upset by his decision, saying she thinks he is making a mistake. They embrace for what appears to be the last time.



Outside he threads his way through the corpses standing at attention and comes across a hanged beast who attacked him numerous times called The Gruagach.





The Gruagach has hung himself in an attempt at suicide. Merlin cursed the beast last issue due to assisting the Nimue with her plot to destroy civilization. Merlin wants the Gruagach to live to see the world he helped create. The creature begs for forgiveness and death, but it is not within Hellboy's power to dispatch him.



Next Hellboy meets Astaroth, in the guise of an old man. Astaroth is a demon who temps him with using the power of his Right Hand of Doom to call forth the armies of Hell.

 

His method of doing so is to simply show him what he is up against.


 

Hellboy continues to reject any help that obligates him to something he might lose control over. He decks Astaroth, but not before the demon crushes his hopes.

 

Reeling from this encounter, another person who may be of assistance appears to him and offers a deal.

 

This is the witch Baba Yaga, who offers to exchange transport to Nimue's castle for one of Hellboy's eyes.

 

So the bargain is struck.






(That’s Morgan Le Fey in the bottom panel, the behind the scenes manipulator of all these events.)



Meanwhile all is not well for Nimue, as it seems her servant-witch Ganeida has used her sorcery to make Nimue's body the vessel through which the Ogdru Jahad will return to this Earth.


 

The Ogdru Jahad are the big-bad of the Hellboy universe, so this makes for devastating news for both Hellboy and his nemesis. And they waste no time in altering Nimue's beauty to their liking.




There is much about this story that feels like classic Greek or Roman myth. Much of the same testing a hero through temptation that I believe was teased out from those type of stories. Mignola, is not only an amazing artist, but he crafts an amazing story as well.



Cannot recommend these enough – go get them right away.



Lady Demon #2





Lady Demon's tale is Hellboy's in reverse. She was an alternate personality of Chaos's Lady Death character, who we will get to in a bit. During that beginning time, she was a consort to Lucifer (you know, Satan?), then Lady Death came to her senses and destroyed him.



Lucifer's power of creation caused that part of Lady Death's personality to split off and become a living person. The new creature calls herself Lady Demon. She was bereft of a soul and ended up attaching herself to a recently deceased young girl named Cheryl Motessori. This pairing didn't last long with Lady Demon being cast out after three issues.



Next up she latched on to Violet Sparks a young woman at the center of a vast supernatural conspiracy. Violet is a pure vessel and this purity causes Lady Demon to mend her ways a bit. As well, Violet turns a bit darker due to Lady Demon's presence.



The way the soul sharing thing works is much like in DC's Jason Blood/The Demon: Only one of them can exist on the mortal plane at at time and they control when they change.



For four issues Aaron Gillespie, writer, and Mirka Andolfo, artist, helmed this Dynamite/Chaos! title, that at first glance appears to only exist to sell multiple cheesecake covers of the same issue over and over again. When you get eight different covers for one issue, there might be a bit of taking advantage of your audience going on there.



And have an audience this book should, as once you get past the bikini-clad hotty with horns, there is a decent story and several bits of really horrific art going on here. I applaud both Gillespie and Andolfo on their efforts. Two of these popped up in the Crapbox. I read them both (issues 2 and 4) and found them highly enjoyable.



Why? I'll let you take a look for yourself:

 

We begin with two demons sneaking through the dark forest.



They are grotesque and appear to be dragging dead bodies to this fat guy building an occult Stonehenge out of piled up dead people. I can only assume they work for plumber's crack.




He treats them like underlings so we assume that's what they are. He wants two things, a person known as The Vessel and an object known as the Crest. I think he can find one of those on the toothpaste aisle at the nearest Piggly-Wiggly. 




I do like this exchange about the metamorphosing cultist. If not just because of how it stands on its own, but also for the way it appears when the leader turns around.




Yuck! and double-yuck! That is seriously gross. The insinuation made, these two mutating minons hightail it to find the items he's requested, providing the conflict of our story. Specifically because the Vessel in question happens to be Violet Sparks.



She's having a pretty crappy day right about now, as it appears that two strangers killed her Father, her brother and….Violet herself.


 

Now she's got a Demon in her soul that desperately wants out to show the guys who killed her exactly how that feels. Violet is in control, but you can tell how bargains are being struck and how she is allowing this immoral creature she is bonded with alter her. But before we get to Violet letting out some very violent inner demons we need to spend a minute with these two:




The woman is the leader and she's sent someone in to kill Violet Sparks. Someone who didn't report back and quite possibly didn't do the deed. What they did do apparently was burn down her house. She sends her partner in to investigate. He isn't what he appears to be.



For one, he's well versed in the occult, knowing way more than the two folks the woman originally sent after the Crest.





And for two…



…he's got no face.



By now you should be getting why I dig this book. It isn't just some pinup girl in a bikini and horns dancing around the landscape. There is some genuine tension and suspense being built up here. We have two MacGuffins and two separate groups wanting to control them. As well as one of the MacGuffins being a person who probably wants to control themselves.



And Violet MacGuffin's Father was the sheriff. He also was involved with a horrible cult, so Violet heads to his office to find out more information on who those killers might be. Once there the deputy makes a lude remark about the size of her clothes to which she wise cracks that no one dresses her anymore.
 




Which leads to him being violently killed by demon marauders. When Violet hears the ruckus, she turns control over Lady Demon.

 

And Lady Demon punches a few tickets, all the way up until this octopus dude starts giving her trouble. 




So she unloads a shotgun round on him…which doesn't affect him but looks pretty cool.




As does Octo-dude getting zapped from behind. Who might be doing the zapping, you ask?

  
Oh, No-face! And if he's here, the lady tugging at his leash can't be too far behind. And she wants Violet dead. After a brief four page tussle that gets Lady Demon knocked out, the woman in charge does indeed show up.





Surprise, surprise! Looks like Maw will have a bunch of explaining to do.



It is interesting to contrast these two stories of heroes tempted to let their darker impulses rise to the surface. Specifically in that those darker leanings are demons in a very literal sense and in that, when the situation calls for it, releasing their inner evil is necessary sometimes to stem the tide of True Evil in the world.



The temptation is the selling point of both stories here. It is entertaining watching the characters negotiate with their own wickedness in so precise a fashion, which is a luxury few of us have.


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